|Jonathan Sims preaching at Kabwata Baptist Church on Sunday evening|
As this year’s conference begins, I would like to do daily blog posts on it. This is especially for the benefit of those who would have loved to attend but have been unable to do so for various reasons. I got an SMS yesterday, which once deciphered read in part, “I’ll painfully miss the conference because my baby is too small to take a long trip. Please keep us informed on the conference through your blog. Greet brother Voddie and tell him that since I’ll miss his preaching he must come again soon. Praying for the conference!”
The excitement began to grow in Lusaka as conference attendees began to arrive from neighbouring countries. Soon after midnight on Saturday, a car arrived from Namibia with eight people in it. Although they were visibly tired, they were equally excited that they had finally arrived for what had become for them an annual pilgrimage. And, although they had arrived at a very awkward hour of the night, we too were very excited to receive them because over the years we have bonded with them in true Christian love and fellowship. They told us that a similar group had already arrived earlier in the day and that two other fully parked cars were being expected later in the day.
|Voddie Baucham and his family taking a stroll before the conference|
Our greatest disappointment by the beginning of the conference was the failure to travel by our Ethiopian brethren. They had been denied permission to leave the country on Friday because, according to their own immigration department, they needed Zambian visas before they could be allowed to board the plane. One of our brothers here in Zambia has since worked around the clock to ensure that a letter is written by the Zambian immigration department to their embassy in Ethiopia to allow the four men to travel and only obtain visas at the port of entry into Zambia. As at the time of “going to press” we are anxiously hoping that they will show up on Zambian soil today (Tuesday).
So far, I have seen attendees from Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, the UK, the USA, South Africa, and Kenya—quite apart from those who have come from all over Zambia. Perhaps our oldest attendee, Anita Weis, has joined us again this year—all the way from Australia. She turned 79 this year. I know that in some countries that is still a tender young age! Anita first came to Zambia a few years ago to attend this conference. When she fell ill and missed quite a chunk of the conference, we thought she would never return. Not a chance! Nothing could stop her from coming this year. We are delighted to see her again.
|Charles Bota, the conference organising team chairman, leading worship|
Thankfully, our two main preachers have already jetted in. The first to arrive was Jonathan Sims on Friday afternoon and then Voddie also arrived on Saturday afternoon, after missing his connection flight in South Africa the night before. One can tell that their engines are raving and so we are looking forward to a great annual feast in the Word. Both of them preached in various churches across Lusaka over the weekend, giving us a foretaste of what this week will be like.
The conference began at 18.00 hours prompt with the singing of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be.” Charles Bota, the chairman of the organising team, led the worship. The singing was disrupted by a power cut even before we could sing the second stanza. However, while Pastor Isaac Makashinyi was opening in prayer, power was restored. Thus, we were able to finish off the song.
|Friday Nyambe, chairman of LBC deacons, giving the welcome address|
The welcome announcements were made this year by Friday Nyambe, the chairman of the deacons at Lusaka Baptist Church. Previously, this role was assigned to Colonel Phiri, who always made us feel as if we were on Parade Square, as he loomed large in front of us with his tall army-like stature. We will miss him this year.
After singing a few more hymns, I was invited to give the opening keynote address. I preached from Paul’s personal testimony to the Galatians, when he wrote, “I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
|"Yours truly" giving the keynote address at the start of the conference|
The Lord enabled me to show from this statement that the Christian life was meant to be a cross-centred life. Having shown that the strongest force in the world is the power of love, I argued that this is ignited in the soul of the believer by the cross. And it was the only way to live a life that truly honours God.
We joined Paul as he climbed the stairs showing the chemistry in the soul of a believer that makes Christianity unique in comparison to all the other religions of the world. In this statement we saw (a) The foundation of the Christian life being that glorious transformation that takes place at conversion, (b) The life of faith, rather than legalism, that makes a Christian walk with Christ, (c) The love of Christ that makes a Christian simply want to love him back, and (d) The greatest display of that love being manifested when Christ “gave himself” for us.
|Part of the Namibian delegation--they always add colour to our conference|
We closed this opening session of the 22nd Reformed Conference by singing together “The Old Rugged Cross.” It was difficult to leave for home, as we saw old friends who had come from across the country and from neighbouring countries. We can hardly wait for what the Lord has in store for us in the coming few days. By his grace, I hope to keep blogging a summary of the events each day. So, keep your eyes here for the next few days. I tell you, God is good!